Friday, September 24, 2010

What were you thinking?

Were you able to watch the television interview of Ms. Gloria Diaz where she mentioned about “Cebuanos not able to speak in English and Tagalog”? Wow! I was totally aghast! Of course the context was beauty pageants where contestants can’t articulate themselves very well in the English language.

Oh boy, what was she thinking? Does she even know that majority of Cebuanos speak good, if not fluent English? What a major blunder on her part.

Cebuano-speaking people have a hard time learning Tagalog because that’s not their mother tongue, however, they are more interested to learn and speak the English language.

I was expecting a torrent of complaint after she uttered her now infamous line. And it’s now happening. A Congress representative from Cebu has spoken about it. And more Cebu leaders are coming up with Resolutions decrying what she said.

I expect that. That was a very insensitive statement. Stereotyping is the word. It is ironic coming from an international beauty winner like her.

She should have been more careful and circumspect; more tactful. Tact, tact, tact, where art thou?
I speak Cebuano or Bisaya if you prefer that. I was born, raised and educated up to college in Bohol; I knew that Cebuanos love their language so much. Their Cebuano (Bisaya) music is very rich in poetry and prose; their Bisaya poetry is very prolific. I know this for a fact. I have met some Cebuano poets. My sister Delora dabbles in both Cebuano and English poetry and she has introduced me to some of her Cebuano poet-friends. They preserve and cultivate their language and yet they speak good English.

Here, let me share a trivia from Wikipedia:
The Visayan languages (or Bisayan languages) of the Philippines, along with Tagalog and Bikol, are part of the Central Philippine languages. Most Visayan languages are spoken in the Visayas region but they are also spoken in the Bicol Region (particularly in Sorsogon and Masbate), islands south of Luzon such as those that make up Romblon, most of the areas of Mindanao, and the province of Sulu located southwest of Mindanao. Some residents of Metro Manila also speak Visayan.

Over thirty languages constitute the Visayan language family. The Visayan language with the most speakers is Cebuano, spoken by 20 million people as a native language in Central Visayas, northern and eastern parts of Mindanao. Two other well-known Visayan languages are Hiligaynon, spoken by 7 million in western Visayas and Waray-Waray spoken by 3 million in eastern Visayas.
o O o

Have you seen on television how government officials are passing the buck about the bungled hostage crisis?
A mayor was identified by a police general as the person calling the shots; the mayor in turn, pointed his finger at the police as the over-all in-charge of operation.

Hello! We can see who’s lying through his teeth? It’s a shame that when one can’t take the heat, he casts the blame on another person (or organization).

Men, show us some backbone. Prove the stuff that you are truly made of.

If you messed up, just have the gumption to accept it. Leadership calls for the highest form of courage. If you don’t have the courage to face the consequence of your action, resign and save your dignity.

o O o

Three communications secretaries and no one was speaking during the day-long hostage crisis until its bloody end? To borrow the British expression: “bloody ineptitude”! Where in the world were the experts? A crisis situation requires crisis communication. The government has three communications secretaries for crying out loud but nobody even dared use crisis communication when it was needed.
The failure is appalling.

Our training in crisis communication teaches us that in times of crisis, the crisis management committee convenes with utmost urgency and appoints the official spokesperson whose personality will represent the company (or the government in this particular instance) for the duration of the crisis. The spokesperson can use any medium available to update the public about the on-going situation. In the case of the hostage crisis, television was the most effective medium. The spokesperson gives the rightful information without exaggerating and causing panic. She serves as the major link between the company (or the government) and the public most especially the affected sectors – maintain connectivity. She must be visible for the duration of the crisis situation. She assures the public that the company (the government) is working on the resolution of the crisis at hand. And when it is over, she wraps up the entire situation with an official statement or press briefing, whichever serves the purpose best. Needless to say, she has to be supported by a team which will facilitate her communication requirements like direct link with the company head (government leader); processing of updated information; crafting of the right messages to deliver to an anxious public and the like.
What a shame that with three cabinet communications secretaries, nobody was there to speak on behalf government.

Well, I’m only presenting this information since I have served as Corporate Communications Officer for three power companies for the past fourteen years. Our crisis situations were always the toppling of our towers by lawless elements; partial power system collapse or full power system collapse. We knew what we ought to do when these situations arise.

Personally, my commitment as a communications person is to prevent a communication vacuum. Why? Because the absence of information creates confusion and panic. When confusion and panic set in, speculations arise. You can only imagine what people will think given a prolonged blackout. So before people start speculating about the absence of power, give them the needed correct information right away (or as soon as available). In this manner, only the right information comes out.
If information is not readily available which happens all the time, come out with an initial statement and follow through. Like I said, never allow a communication vacuum to happen. An information vacuum encourages speculations. Absence of information itself is a crisis waiting to happen.

o O o
Food for thought:
Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.
- Charles de Gaulle

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